When we celebrated Rosh Hashanah at my Jewish Day School
with apples dipped in honey back in the first grade, I ran out of
apple slices, but there was still honey left over on my paper plate.
I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I dipped my finger into the
syrupy amber liquid and slurped it all up, except Mrs. Zach was
watching. She yelled at me to go to the bathroom right away and
Wash your hands!—startling me. It was the only time she ever
raised her voice with me that whole year, and I still remember the
shame I felt at doing something so human and getting caught.
I was around eight years old when Mom took me to Paradise Cove
in Malibu for the first time. The beach was my happy place. Both
our happy places. It was an adventure day—her words for special
time for just us two. There was nothing to divide us then. Just
laughter and water and sun and sky. And the surprising feeling of a
finger—the short, stubby ones we share—being sucked into a sea
creature’s slimy, sticky mouth. “Again, again!” I’d shouted at the
fun of it, and she indulged me. To the anemones, my pointer finger
was honey, and their stinging cells fired at my sweet nectar,
tickling and delighting me.
When I’d babysit a family friend’s daughter, I’d grab the can
opener, and the two of us would play a game that kept us
endlessly amused and full of sodium. We’d place large, black
olives on each of our ten fingers, then make them disappear, bite
by bite—our nailbeds taking up the space the pits had once been;
black orbs and laughter filling our sated bellies.
I identify as straight now, but in middle and high school, I wasn’t so
sure. Here’s what I learned:
Like sea anemones, cunts open and
close and look like flowers, but you should never use the “c-word”
when fighting with your mother;
Like honey, they can be sticky;
Like olives, they’re sometimes salty, sometimes ripe.
When I’m teaching Pilates, which is my trade, I press my fingertips
into my clients’ trapezius muscles, treating their necks and upper
backs like pie dough. Unclench, my fingers say. Relax. I store my
own tension in this large muscle bundle, so I know what it’s like to
feel so much weight—so much worry—on one’s shoulders.
My wish for them: that their traps should be like my mouth
like those sea anemones before my index finger was
ensnared in their tentacles;
like a tenth grade girl friend’s pussy after: